The food culture of the Philippines is sometimes overshadowed by it’s northwestern neighbors – Thailand and Vietnam. But the Philippines can easily hold its own on the global culinary stage and even came in second in a 2015 CNN poll asking readers what country was their favorite food destination.
To eat like a Filipino, all you need is rice and a bowl of adobo. Take chicken or pork, simmer in vinegar and soy sauce, and you get adobo – one of the few dishes in the Philippines that must have originated locally, without any foreign influence (the Spanish name is a later addition).
Adobo is as Filipino as you can get; it goes with rice and no other, and every province has its own way of cooking the stuff.
The Bicolanos of southern Luzon prefer adobo sa gata – adding coconut milk to the vinegar, and substituting green chili for peppercorns. In the Visayas islands, they add annatto oil to the braising liquid, to enrich the color and flavor of the sauce.
You can find Lechon almost everywhere in the Philippines. The most interesting thing, they eat with their bare hands. It’s a common food whenever there’s a celebration or festival in the Philippines and it brings people together because they don’t want to run out of lechon, ha! Although Pork Lechon is the usual lechon in the Philippines, there are also Chicken Lechon and Beef Lechon.
3. Chicken Inasal
For who love grilled chicken, don’t miss the extraordinary chicken dish, innasal. Why is it so special? The chicken is marinated in a sauce made of achuete oil, calamansi juice, lemongrass, pepper, salt, and garlic. All parts of the animal, even the offal, are grilled. To eat this typical Bacolod dish, you have to go with the garlic rice.
This simple dish is a combination of noodles and whatever meat or vegetables you want to add. Pancit is a name that originated from the Hokkien term ‘pian e sit’, which means ‘something conveniently cooked.’ It might be simple but it is rich with flavor and you will definitely love every bite of it.
In the culinary capital of Pampanga, they turn the pork’s cheeks, head and liver into a sizzling dish called Sisig. The crunchy and chewy texture of this appetizer is a perfect match for a cold beer. Serve with hot sauce and Knorr seasoning to suit the preference of you and your buddies. Credit goes to Aling Lucing, who invented this dish at a humble stall along the train railways in Angeles City, Pampanga.
This rich stew is made with peanut sauce and, customarily, oxtail, but other meatier cuts of beef can also be added in. Many Filipinos will consider kare-kare incomplete without a serving of bagoong (fermented seafood paste) on the side.
Tocino is the Filipino version of bacon. It is pork belly cured in sugar, salt, and various other spices then fried – yum! It is served as part of a common Filipino breakfast called tosilog. The name is a combination of its 3 parts: tocino, sinangag (garlic fried rice), and pritong itlog (fried egg).
There are lots of different versions of the silog breakfast trio that simply replace the Tocino with another meat options. Tapsilog features marinated beef (‘tapa’), bansilog has fried fish (‘bangus’), and maybe the least adventurous choice is hotsilog which simply includes a hot dog.
Balut is popular street food, which originated in the Philippines and is also frequently found in Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia. The ideal age of the duck embryo is 17 days when the chick is not old enough to fully show its beak, feathers, claws and the bones are undeveloped. Sounds disgusting? Well in the Philippines, balut is a popular childhood treat. Locals swear by it and will tell you what a nourishing and wholesome snack it is. It’s just 188 calories for each balut and it contains lots of niacin, riboflavin, thiamine, protein, calcium, iron and phosphorus.
Chinese-style egg rolls are quite common throughout Southeast Asia, adapting to local ingredients and tastes to become something utterly local. Filipino lumpia uses pork or beef, heart of palm, vegetables, and seafood—all tucked into a thin crepe and either fried or served fresh.
(There’s even a sweet version of lumpia, consisting of saba bananas and a little jackfruit rolled in lumpia wrapper and deep-fried with sugar—Filipinos call it turon.)
One version of lumpia does away with the crepe altogether, becoming lumpiang hubad, or “naked lumpia”, only known as lumpia because of its use of common Filipino lumpia ingredients.
Tamarind paste and calamansi (or Philippine lime) juice infuse the broth with its signature sour flavor. This version calls for salty chunks of pork and a splash of creamy coconut milk to round out things out.
Ube is a purple yam that is very common in the Philippines as a standalone dessert or an ingredient of another dessert. Actually, most of the purple desserts you’ll ever taste maybe has ube in it. It has a very gentle flavor, that’s why it blends well with other sweet ingredients.
12. Crispy Pata
Another pork dish you should try is crispy pata. It’s made of pork knuckle, which is boiled, drained, and then deep fried. The skin turns into crackling and it’s crispy, whereas the meat is delicate and juicy. In order to make this dish perfect, dip it in a soy-vinegar sauce.
13. Cassava Cake
If you are looking for traditional Filipino food dessert, nothing comes quite close to the popular cassava cake. The Pinoy dessert is made with freshly-grated cassava flour and coconut milk. The cake is traditionally baked on coals, which gives it a flavor that ordinary cakes do not have. What is great about cassava is that you do not have to feel guilty indulging because it is known to have a wide range of health benefits.
Despite the perennial heat, Filipinos often enjoy sipping piping hot bulalo soup made with from freshly slaughtered Batangas beef. The broth is rich with flavors seeped from the beef after boiling for hours. The bones are big, meaning more bone marrow to enjoy.
15. Pork Barbecue
A merienda (snack in between meals) favourite in the Philippines is Pinoy pork barbecue. While this skewered sweet meat goes wonderfully well with the ubiquitous plain rice during meals, there’s also nothing like catching yourself hungry in the middle of the afternoon and conveniently walking down the street over to the vendors grilling them road-side for only PHP15 ($0.30) a stick.